Crossing Borders w/ Mischa Blanos [interview / new album release] June 17, 2020
Mischa Blanos is one of those artists who are tirelessly working to escape the tedium of composing around a single genre. It’s boredom that makes him rage against the creative plateau; it’s fatigue that drives him to immerse himself into manifold richly-hued projects. With each migration he brings something new into the next one as if hunting down moods, feelings and soundscapes in a nomadic way of life.
Mischa Blanos composes, performs and physically transforms the piano, giving life to a new acoustic electronic blend. Alimori alias serves Mischa Blanos to extend his travel in the pure electronic realm. With each track, A chair in the museum invites the listener to take the dance floor and move himself to techno as if contemplating in front of a painting. Sounds become visual, stillness becomes motion, unfolding four stories guided by kicks and beats, diffused themes and twisted fibres of melodies.
In his most recent release – Crossrhodes, he brings contemporary classical music from his neoclassical acoustic-electronic solo project and gracious patterns from his techno endeavours. Here you have a gentle Mischa Blanos struck in awe by the sounds of the clarinet, sometimes weaving around threads with his Rhodes, so careful not to touch the fragile silky core and sometimes lending a child-like hand smoothly guiding the story with his piano and synths into places of sincere curiosity.
This seemed to us the perfect timing to get some fresh insights from Mischa Blanos, and the perfect opportunity for our followers to discover a small glimpse into the minds of an artist whose thoughts and visceral passion might prove pertinent right now.
Hi Mischa and thank you for your time. Your recent releases made a strong impression: you’ve been both prolific and creative this spring, while also keeping up the quality of your releases – congratulations. From your perspective, is genre-diversified discography the key to personal success?
Thank you, I’m glad my music reached you. It’s funny that you asked, because I’m trying to answer this question myself. I asked myself many times if releasing and performing different genres would puzzle my audience. I mean, let’s say a clubgoer who likes my techno sees an event on social media with Mischa Blanos, he buys the ticket, comes to the concert, and only then does he realize this is an acoustic-electronic neoclassical concert. And it goes the other way around as well.
This is how Alimori was born. This is the reason I decided this spring to release the electronic album A Chair in the Museum at Longcut Records under this alias, dedicated to techno, ambient music, and pure electronic migrations. From a marketing point of view, a lot of people said it was a bad move. You don’t want to fragment your audience, keep them in one place, These are not the times to build branding. But I did it anyway. The pressure of being honest and respecting my audience was more powerful than marketing. So, in the end, I guess it depends on how you pursue success.
How does it feel to have several sub-genres as a creative refuge?
This is what keeps me alive. It’s like living different lives. There are all kinds of emotions in the music I make, but their expression is so different from one genre to the other. Also, the mood, the mindset, even my body posture, and the muscles involved in composing are different. When performing, these digressions get even deeper. It’s something to perform in a club and another thing in a concert hall. And then there is the vibe of the audience. But these creative personas are permeable. So, I borrow bits of moods and techniques and transfer them into the next project. I never get bored this way.
What dictates your daily studio work? Is there a certain mood you connect with a project or more like a mindset for a specific timeframe?
Get up, get coffee, ride the bike and close the door to the studio. Today I will not be distracted by anything. Yes, it’s discipline. And, yes, distraction is the worst enemy for creating I guess … anything. For me, every piece has a story and every project has a chapter, it is important to have a clear and sincere mindset of my work. Everything around me influences my creative work flow, the weather, the conversations I have, the readings, the personal feelings, the bad and the good. That’s why every time I must understand the situation and go on with that, embrace it.
You’re a classically trained musician, studying piano since you were seven years old. What were your original aspirations as a musician and how do you think you’re shaping up?
Well, you know, when you’re a kid, you just want to go out and play football in the backyard, though for me it wasn’t a yard, but all concrete surrounded by blocks. And most of the time I couldn’t because I had to study. The musical aspirations were induced by my professors, they kept on predicting a beautiful solo career in performing classical music and I think at some point I believed it too. But by my 20s I knew I had to change gears, I had to explore what was on the other side of the fence.
What drove these classical composers to create music? How does it feel to write your own music? Those questions kept coming back to me, until I managed to enter their world and see what’s all about there. As an interpreter, my repertoire was from Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Eric Satie, George Gershwin, Dimitri Schostakovich, George Enescu, Bela Bartok and many other brilliant composers.
What do you feel were the result of your studies on your own music and creative approach?
It surely helps to know notation and music theory. There are also all the classical pieces I’ve studied. It’s like each composer is in this small decanter, releasing his essence and sending me at the right moment bits of rhythms, harmonies or just moods and feelings. It’s a great inspiration. Sometimes I am not even aware of this happening, but it does in the subconscious, and it’s amazing to feel that I am part of this centuries old family of music creators.
The music schools also gave me the discipline I was talking about. It sure was a lot of partying and drinking, but when you had a concert, contest or exam, it all became really serious and you had to put on hold everything and just study for hours and days. I guess the school formed me to have the responsibility of the job well done and not to fuss when it came to working my butt off. I believe that the more music you play more creative ideas will come naturally.
The more you learn, the more you acknowledge there are plenty more things to improve and discover. What are you currently studying in the field of music production?
When I started doing Acoustic-Electronic music I was aware that I have to explore electronic music production as well.
Instead of learning directly by the book, I chose to learn on the fly at the same time when composing. This helped me a lot to understand how to combine these two separate worlds. Mixing my music by myself is something that I want to achieve in my music career, and besides that, I started to implement modulars in my piano sound.
You’re definitely into crafting and sharing a more complex state of mind. What does your latest album – Crossrhodes – stands for? Was there any particular inspiration for the album?
Crossrhodes is the result of my collaboration with Horia Dumitrache, aka Khori Ander. Some years ago I was in Budapest and dropped by his place. And what are two musicians doing when all other subjects are gone? Well, play and jam. It was an incredible night, we jammed for hours. He is a clarinet performer and his skills in classical contemporary music are amazing. He pulled me into his jazzy contemporary sounds and I pulled him into my neoclassical and electronic blend. It was playing without any constraints and this freedom is the key for making this out-of-the-box album. But it took us three years to meet again in the studio and make this album happen. Cezar Lazar, a brilliant sound engineer, accomplished DJ and label owner listened to the recorded session and he took the risk to invite us for one week to record this album at Understand Studios in Bucharest. With all of this we managed to bring this music out to the world for listening.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the album?
You should be mindful about it, because there is a chance that it’ll put you in a delicate position, where you can feel gentleness and vulnerability almost physically. Maybe it’s not the setting that’s important, instead finding that mind space where you are truly comfortable with your own vulnerability. And this is part because there are so many organic sounds, the click-clack of the clarinet keys, squeaks and creaks, sizzles and fizzles, almost onomatopoeic, and part of the electronic cinematic tapestry. But if you go too deep, you can always rely on the sounds of the piano and Rhodes to pull you up.
Is this type of studio creation more fulfilling, do you get more excitement from improvisation in particular?
I definitely love to improvise, this is the most accurate expression of the feelings I have in that given moment. The interesting part is when you combine the improv with composing in real time, that is bringing the free flow of the improv into a defined structure. You have to be with your mind ahead of what you’re playing and imagine the form and structure of the piece right there on the spot. This is for me an amazing fulfilling creative process.
How much time do you usually spend in the studio at one session?
First part is getting my setup ready for recording which can be up to 1 day more a less, depending on how experimental I want to be, which instruments I want to use. Then, the session can take from midday to morning or just the evening, but this depends on my state of mind. I am always mindful about my mood not to constrain myself into doing something if things don’t add up or I’m too drained. Is that moment when you feel that you have to get away and refresh your mind with different things.
Please recommend our readers one all-time-favorite album you love listening to.
So hard to give you a straight answer about only one album, I’m always thinking if I gave one then what about the others?
But now, what is coming into my mind is one of my favourite: Herbie Hancock – Sextant.